Recently, the Senate Health and Pensions Committee heard testimony on SB 391, sponsored by Senator Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove). SB 391, the so-called "Abolition of Abortion in Missouri Act", would attempt to ban all abortions in Missouri. However, in doing so, the bill would repeal every pro-life law previously passed by the Missouri General Assembly. In response to questions from pro-life Missourians, Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), chairman of the Health and Pensions Committee and strong pro-life advocate in the General Assembly, clarified his position on SB 391. Senator Onder stated that he could not support SB 391 in its current form, as the bill "would repeal all of the excellent pro-life laws passed over the last forty years that have done so much to protect unborn children and provide women with alternatives that enable them to choose life for their unborn child", in favor of a law "that is unlikely to survive in court."
The MCC, Missouri Right to Life, and Campaign Life Missouri, have all echoed the concerns raised by Senator Onder. All three pro-life groups have pointed out that, in addition to repealing current pro-life laws, SB 391 could subject a woman who has had an abortion to potential prosecution and imprisonment.
By a vote of 20-9 along party lines, the House Budget Committee denied funding for Medicaid Expansion. Funding for expansion of the healthcare program for the poor was broken out in a separate bill, HB 20sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage), to allow committee Republicans to voice their opinion on Medicaid expansion, which voters approved in August 2020. The move to separate funding for expansion was thought to be a political posturing move, but by rejecting funding in committee, expansion of the program is now in jeopardy.
The state budget will be debated on the House floor as soon as next week, and there is a chance an amendment would be offered to put funding for expansion back into the budget, but Smith has plans to spend the state portion of Medicaid expansion (10% of the cost or around $200 million) on other programs, suggesting the issue may end up in court. Funding for the current Medicaid program will not be affected, although the state would benefit from expanding the program because the recently passed federal relief bill (the American Rescue Plan) allocated additional funding for Medicaid to states that choose to expand the program.
The MCC is following this issue closely, since the Missouri bishops supported the ballot initiative to expand the program last year.
The Senate Education Committee heard testimony this week and advanced HB 349, the "Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Act", sponsored by Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters).The bill would create a $50 million state tax credit for private donations made to educational scholarship organizations that in turn offer scholarships to low-income students and students with learning disabilities so that they can attend private schools. For students to qualify, they must currently attend public school, or be entering school for the first time. The bill passed out of the House in early March. The committee heard testimony on the bill on Tuesday and voted the bill "do pass" on Thursday morning by a vote of 5-4. The bill must now be passed by the Missouri Senate and signed by the Governor in order to become law. The MCC testified in support of the bill as a way of offering struggling students an alternative to public school education.
Governor Parson is asking lawmakers to earmark more than $18 million for the cost of keeping juveniles out of adult jails. The money for juvenile offenders is part of a 2018 law, known as "Raise the Age", that barred 17-year-old offenders from being automatically charged as adults. The law took effect on January 1, 2021, but because there was no money dedicated for juvenile services, 46 of the judicial circuits decided that the juvenile court should not take on juvenile offenders. Meanwhile, St. Louis and Jackson counties went in the opposite direction, and are treating 17-year-olds as juveniles. If the funding is approved, the money would go for hiring 138 workers to implement the law in all Missouri counties.
Forty-four other states, including Illinois, have passed "Raise the Age" legislation. Supporters of the legislation say that keeping 17 year olds in the juvenile justice system will reduce the chances they will commit another crime.
Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development Archbishop Paul Coakley, of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, thanked Governor Ralph Northam for signing legislation this week to repeal the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He said, "I welcome Virginia's repeal of the death penalty as a bold step towards a culture of life. Virginia will become the twenty-third state to abolish the death penalty, and I urge all other states and the federal government to do the same." He went on to say that, "This Lent, we are called once again to repent and believe in the Gospel. We are reminded that God created and loves every human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem."
Like many other events, the Midwest March for Life will look a little different this year, but its purpose is still very much the same: to answer the call to protect human life. The event will be held on Wednesday, April 14th on the south lawn of the Missouri State Capitol. The lineup of speakers includes Jeanne Mancini, president of the National March for Life. Click here to visit the Midwest March for Life website to RSVP or learn more about the great day of activities planned.
The latest episode of MCC from the Capitol is live! In this episode, join MCC lobbyists as they give an overview of the first half of the 2021 Missouri legislative session, including which MCC public policy priority bills are moving--with a focus on the areas of criminal justice and pro-life--how legislators are (or aren't) working together on select bills, and insights into what the second half of the session may bring. Click here to listen to the second MCC Legislative Roundtable!